Monday ReadsPosted: December 7, 2015
Well, it’s another Monday of National Crass Consumerism Season and woe to us that have to do any normal errands in stores. For that matter, woe to us that get mail, email, commercial TV stations, radio, and internet because it’s hard to avoid the onslaught of the season of greed and guilt-laden obligation. It’s time to say WHOA! to all of that. You can’t go any where these days and escape the pitch. Whatever happened to just simply getting together and enjoying people when you have time off work or whatever. Does it all have to involve ugly sweaters, really bad music, and people in terrible mood all in lines I’d like to just plain avoid? Why is it the worst things about this country just keep getting worse?
Oh, wait, I can answer that. Some rich old white guy is making a buttload of money out of making every one else basically stressed and miserable. Plus a couple other old white dudes think their liberty is at risk if we start trying to solve the problems they create with policy that works rather than enriches the other old white dudes.
So, speaking of things that keep getting worse, the President addressed the nation last night about our rampant gun violence. Oh, wait, he only addressed our paranoid nation on the least likely form of gun violence. But, that’s all one party in this country cares about.
We can’t seem to get a break from putting gun violence into the bin denoting the religion of the shooter. It’s either terrorism from Mooslim TerroristZ or some crazy dude or black people that deserve to be shot because THUGZ!!. Those are the bins. That’s a pretty sad statement on the affairs of state. You can find the transcript at the White House Website.
To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.
We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino. I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies — no matter how effective they are — cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do — and must do — is make it harder for them to kill.
Next, we should put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa so that we can take a hard look at whether they’ve traveled to warzones. And we’re working with members of both parties in Congress to do exactly that.
Finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists. For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets. I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united, and committed, to this fight.
I still want to have a discussion on why so many Americans feel the need to shoot up the country. I really could care less about their religion. One thing I read this weekend that I really would recommend that you read is the story of one of the survivors of the Oregon Community College shooter. Like I said, we don’t need to really look at the religion of the shooter to know the damage it inflicts on our society. We also know that it’s really difficult to predict and stop rampage shooters after they have access to weapons. We need to spend less time obsessing on the profiles of the shooters because we know there are so many of them now that just knowing who they are is not solving any of these problems. ISIS-inspired, Police shooting, person with known emotional illnesses or right wing Racist … the out come is the same and their access to weapons remains the same. There are other systemic things going on in this country we can and must address regardless of the profile of the shooter.
It had been 20 days since the last time Bonnie left Cheyeanne by herself — 20 days since she was shot along with 15 others in a classroom at Umpqua Community College. Nine people were killed that day, adding to the hundreds of Americans who have died in mass shootings in recent years. And seven people were wounded but didn’t die, joining the ever-expanding ranks of mass-shooting survivors. There are thousands of them. Fifty-eight gunshot survivors at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Three at the Washington Navy Yard. One at a church in Charleston, S.C. Nine in Colorado Springs. Twenty-one in San Bernardino, Calif. And seven more in Roseburg, Ore., where Cheyeanne had been sent home from the hospital to a flea-infested rental with reinforced locks and curtains darkening the living room.
A doctor had given her a booklet called “Creating a Safe Space to Recover,” and Bonnie had taken a break from waitressing to become a full-time caregiver. She had turned a $5 garage-sale recliner into Cheyeanne’s hospital bed and posted a sign on their front door: “No loud noises! Please do NOT knock.” She had set her alarm for every four hours to bring Cheyeanne her medicines and anything else that might make her feel safe again. Here came more Percocet to numb the pain and anti-anxieties to ease her panic attacks. Here came her purple blanket, her new puppy and her condolence letter from President Obama. Here came the old Little League baseball bats she wanted nearby for protection and the rifle she had used to kill her first deer.
From the parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooter to former Congress woman Gabby Giffords, we have survivors of our own American War Zone. We have mothers whose sons were gunned down without much thought by the police. We have people who witnessed shootings on Bourbon street on Thanksgiving weekend. We know many people survived the San Bernadino shooters. All of them stand in testament to the gun culture in the US. The rest of the world simply does not get how we tolerate such a large body count.
But, we live in a divided country still. The civil war evidently solved very little but slavery in the long run. Just look at the speech and the reaction to the shootings last week to see how very differently our policy treats the same essential problem. The victims of the Planned Parenthood shooting have been all but forgotten. We’re not getting a prime time address to the country on the uptick in attacks on Women’s Health Clinics.
We have a lot of disgruntled, unhappy people that get easy access to guns then take the neighbors, family and co-workers with them when they finally decide to end themselves. The same process happens with the divorced father who goes after his wife and kids as it does with people driven by the inner demons of religious zealotry, bigotry, or mental illness. But, let’s make this all about reasons to bomb another country in the Middle East. Republicans ignore gun violence unless it’s been committed by some one who happens to be Muslim. Then, we get a witch hunt akin to the 1950s search for communists. This really isn’t our major issue with rampage shooters at all let alone overall gun violence in the US.
While Obama doesn’t say it outright, he appears to be subtly referencing Robert Pape’s influential argument that the great driver of suicide terrorism is not jihadist ideology but occupation. Because Obama, unlike Bush and Rubio, believes the Islamic State is ideologically weak, he thinks America’s current strategy will eventually defeat it unless America commits a large occupying force, which would give the jihadists a massive shot in the arm.
The other unforced error America must avoid, according to Obama, is “letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want.” Because the GOP candidates see violent jihadism as a powerful, seductive ideology, they think that many American Muslims are at risk of becoming terrorists, and thus that the United States must monitor them more aggressively. Because Obama sees violent jihadism as ideologically weak and unattractive, he thinks that few American Muslims will embrace it unless the United States makes them feel like enemies in their own country—which is exactly what Donald Trump risks doing.
Obama is a kind of Fukuyamian. Like Francis Fukuyama, the author of the famed 1989 essay “The End of History,” he believes that powerful, structural forces will lead liberal democracies to triumph over their foes—so long as these democracies don’t do stupid things like persecuting Muslims at home or invading Muslim lands abroad. His Republican opponents, by contrast, believe that powerful and sinister enemies are overwhelming America, either overseas (the Rubio version) or domestically (the Trump version).
Read how our police respond to young black men and tell me that this isn’t a huge problem. One officer just pulled a gun a shot 12 year old Tamir Rice for having his hands in his pocket based on some hysterical white person’s 911 call. A huge portion of our citizenry lives in daily fear of the people who are supposed to serve and protect. Why do we only obsess on one cause that’s not even statistically up there with the causes of death by shootings. Toddlers with easy access to guns statistically do more killing than wild eyed Wahhabi sympathizers.
A 12-year-old boy killed by Cleveland police last year had his hands in his pockets when he was shot and wasn’t reaching for the pellet gun he was carrying, according to an expert hired by the boy’s family to review a frame-by-frame video of the deadly encounter.
Tamir Rice did not have enough time to remove his hands from his pockets before being shot and his hands were not visible to the officer, according to the report released late Friday night by attorneys for Tamir’s family.
The new report and two others from experts already used by the family are the latest analysis of evidence to be released as a grand jury considers whether to bring charges against the officers in Tamir’s death.
The boy was shot after authorities received a report of a man pointing and waving a gun outside a recreation center in November 2014. The rookie officer who fired at Tamir, Timothy Loehmann, told investigators he repeatedly ordered the boy to “show me your hands” then saw him pulling a weapon from his waistband before opening fire.
It turned out Tamir was carrying a nonlethal, airsoft gun that shoots plastic pellets when Loehmann shot him outside the rec center. Tamir died a day later
Previous reports concluded that Loehmann shot Tamir within two seconds of opening his car door. The new analysis determined it happened even faster, within less than a second, according to the review by California-based shooting reconstruction expert Jesse Wobrock.
With the patrol car windows rolled up, Tamir could not have heard commands to show his hands, Wobrock added.
“The scientific analysis and timing involved do not support any claim that there was a meaningful exchange between Officer Loehmann and Tamir Rice, before he was shot,” Wobrock said.
Wobrock said comparing the location of a bullet hole in Tamir’s jacket with the location of the wound on his body indicated that the boy had lifted his arm – with his hand in his pocket – at the moment he was shot.
One of the things that the press has been obsessing about is the bomb factory in the garage of the San Bernadino shooters. Where were they when this happened in August?
An upstate New York man who blew his leg off in his garage making improvised explosive devices will be held in federal custody without bail because law enforcement found white supremacist paraphernalia and believe he’s dangerous,WGRZ reports.
Michael O’Neill, 45, a former Niagara County corrections officer, is accused of making seven bombs and was arrested two weeks ago after one of the devices accidentally went off. O’Neill was rushed to a hospital where his leg had to be amputated. He was the only one injured, WGRZ reports.
“Luckily, he is detained,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Alsup told Time Warner Cable News. “He is no longer at large in the community with or without some of the physical disabilities he’s going to have going forward, but luckily for the community, he only hurt himself.”
Pictures of the KKK, Nazi imagery and the Confederate flag were found inside his home, which he lives in with his stepfather, William Ross, who chairs the Niagara County Legislature, WGRZ reports.
Even with his leg now missing, prosecutors believed it would be too risky for the public if O’Neill was released from custody.
The explosives he created contained nails and BB pellets, according to reports. One was labeled “powder with nails.”
His attorney said O’Neill was just planning to blow up some tree stumps.
“The fact that there were some items that we described in court as consistent with, white supremacists, to include the Ku Klux Klan, and the Nazi imagery, some of the verbiage which was particularly on the Nazi picture, also the Confederate battle flag, means that law enforcement has more work to go,” U.S. Attorney William Hochul told TWC News.
O’Neill will remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshalls while he recuperates, then will be transferred to a detention facility.
We really can’t find out much about the trends in gun violence because of this: Quietly, Congress extends a ban on CDC research on gun violence.
In the immediate aftermath of the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee quietly rejected an amendment that would have allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the underlying causes of gun violence.
That has caused strange gyrations in research, such as this November report by the CDC into gun violence that manages not to be about guns.
Though gun violence and gun control has stayed in the forefront of the American conversation in recent months, most recently after Wednesday’s mass killings in a developmental disabilities center in San Bernardino, California, prohibition on gun research goes back decades.
Dr. Fred Rivara, a professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the University of Washington at Seattle Children’s Hospital, has been involved with injury research for 30 years. He was part of a team that researched gun violence back in the 1990s and personally saw the chilling effects of the NRA’s lobbying arm. Rivara says that the NRA accused the CDC of trying to use science to promote gun control.
“As a result of that, many, many people stopped doing gun research, [and] the number of publications on firearm violence decreased dramatically,” he told The Takeaway in April. “It was really chilling in terms of our ability to conduct research on this very important problem.”
In 2013, some 34,000 Americans died from gunshot wounds. So Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich decided to ask House Speaker John Boehner why his party is trying to block research on gun violence.
“The CDC is there to look at diseases that need to be dealt with to protect public health,” Boehner said at a press conference last week. “I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. Guns don’t kill people — people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual and not blame the action on some weapon.”
There are a lot of good reasons to support studying factors that contribute to gun violence. The problem is that there is very little money to do such research and there’s actually bans on it when it comes to federal research time and money. This is ridiculous. This research ban and it’s impact are thankfully back in the news. I’m going to use the West Virginia newspaper article as an illustration. It includes descriptions of the 2013 moves by Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin to change gun registration laws as well as a discussion on trying to get new research on the root causes of gun violence. It’s an interesting read and it’s from this week.
Since 1996, Congress has barred the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence. That restriction was extended to the National Institutes of Health in 2011.
What do West Virginia’s members of Congress, who represent the state with the 14th highest rate of gun death, think of this ban on research?
Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., supports it.
Jenkins, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, voted in June to continue forbidding the CDC from studying gun violence. The proposal to allow research never got past his committee.
“I will continue to be a strong advocate for protecting West Virginians’ Second Amendment rights,” Jenkins said at the time. “This language has been included since 1996 and for the past two decades, both Democrats and Republicans have been in the majority and both parties have chosen to continue it.”
The rest of West Virginia’s congressional delegation — Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, Rep. David McKinley and Rep. Alex Mooney, all Republicans — refused to say this week whether they think federal public health agencies should be allowed to study gun violence.
On Wednesday, the same day that two shooters killed 14 people at a center for the disabled in California, more than 2,000 doctors petitioned Congress to end its prohibition on gun violence research.
“Gun violence is a public health problem that kills 90 Americans a day,” Dr. Alice Chen, the director of Doctors for America, a health care advocacy group, said in a prepared statement. “Physicians believe it’s time to lift this effective ban and fund the research needed to save lives. We urge Congress to put patients over politics to help find solutions to our nation’s gun violence crisis.”
The ban on researching gun violence dates back to 1993, according to a 2013 report by the American Psychological Association.
In 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine published a CDC-funded study called “Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home.”
The study found that guns kept at home didn’t make people safer, in fact it found the opposite.
“Rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance,” the study concluded.
The study garnered quite a bit of media attention and the National Rifle Association responded by pushing for the center that funded the study — the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention — to be eliminated, according to the APA report.
Congress didn’t eliminate the center but responded by pulling the CDC’s funding for gun violence research and passing an effective ban on future gun research, according to the APA report. That ban has been continually renewed ever since.
It really makes sense to understand the factors that contribute to gun deaths. This is especially true when we see outsized focus on one small section of the deaths. Can we please have an address to the nation demanding money to study the root causes of gun violence? The CDC felt so compelled to study this topic that it had to do so by actually avoiding the big questions and the Congressional ban. It’s not that scientists or doctors don’t demand the data. It’s that politicians don’t want to see it. This particular study focused on Wilmington, DE. and was done through the back door. Notice that we do, in fact, have an executive order to study it.
On November 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a 14-page report on gun violence in Wilmington, Delaware, a medium-sized city of roughly 70,000 residents that also experiences one of the highest murder rates in the country. To judge by the language in its title — “Elevated Rates of Urban Firearm Violence and Opportunities for Prevention” — the study might seem to have been an overlooked watershed: Despite a 2013 executive order by President Barack Obama to resume research on gun violence, the CDC has adhered to a two-decade-old Congressional restriction that effectively bans such inquiries. Now here was a document suggesting it was tiptoeing back in.
Read through the Wilmington report, though, and you get a different story — one about the strange contortions that result as the CDC seeks to fulfill its public health mission without violating Congress’s orders.
While the new study analyzed Wilmington’s 127 recorded shootings in 2013, it does not address how the perpetrators acquired their weapons, or if attempts to limit access to firearms might lead to a dip in crime. Instead, the Wilmington report outlines already well-established trends and risk factors: that 95 percent of city residents arrested for violent crimes are young men; that a history of violence is a strong predictor for being involved in a firearm-related crime; and that unemployment is often a risk factor for violence. The report concludes that “integrating data systems” across Delaware would allow social service providers to better understand the issue.
If the CDC wasn’t going to consider the role of firearms in Wilmington’s gun crimes, why do the study at all? The answer is in the research’s origins, which lie in a bizarro world of not-actually-about-gun-violence gun violence studies that are an outgrowth of the Congressional ban. “It’s not like the study was initiated by the CDC,” Dr. Linda Degutis, the former director of the center’s national injury center, tells The Trace. “It was a response to a request from the city.”
Specifically, the Wilmington study is a product of the CDC’s “Epi-Aids” program, which assists states and local governments with public health problems through the agency’s Epidemic Intelligence Service division. Because the CDC is under immense political pressure to avoid doing anything that might even appear to “advocate or promote gun control” (in the words of Congress), Epi-Aid requests like Wilmington’s — which revolve around firearm-related public health issues — put the agency in a difficult situation. In a proper epidemiological study, guns themselves would be treated as a risk factor for many types of violence or injury — just as mosquitoes would be treated as a risk factor for contracting malaria, for example. As it is, the agency is confined to rehashing social or environmental factors that have already been thoroughly studied by injury researchers.
“When a health department requests an investigation of something, that’s basically within the CDC’s authorization, because they’re not necessarily saying ‘Let’s do gun violence research.’ They’re saying ‘Let’s figure out what’s going on here,’” says Degutis, who says she left the organization last year in part because she was frustrated with the difficulty of conducting research on gun violence.
Again, we’re beginning to see smaller journalism outlets and doctors openly discuss this issue. We can’t possibly have any practical, workable policies if all we have to on our pet political fetishes and the overwhelming presence of a terrorist-enabling lobbying group. When doing panel research on varying situations, a good researcher never focuses on one variable. Yet, we continually have public discussions on very few factors that contribute to gun violence. This is a problem.
On the Wednesday of the shooting in San Bernardino, California, only a few hours before the event took place, doctors went to Capitol Hill asking Congress to end the ban on gun violence research. They presented a petition signed by over 2,000 doctors nationwide, protesting a 1996 ban that prevents the Center For Disease Control from studying gun violence.
The ban was made after a CDC-funded study revealed that having a gun in the home increases the likelihood of homicide and suicide. The NRA convinced Congress that the CDC was using its power to advocate gun control, and Congress quickly cut funding for gun-related research. It wasn’t exactly a ban on all research, per se, but the amendment wasworded in such a confusing and vague way that no one knew for certain what was permitted. This created a climate of fear and intimidation with CDC researchers, where “no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out” if they could study gun violence. But why would the CDC want to study gun violence, anyway?
Take the time to read some of these links. I know many of my links today actually go to in depth articles but it’s time to start contacting our congress critters and demanding money to study all of the sources of gun violence. There are many good statistics and facts in those articles you can use to beef up your letters and calls. We need to look beyond the sources that Republicans find politically expedient. This means that every time we have a rampage shooter the only thing we hear about our mental health issues and speculation about radical Islamic Wahhabi jihadists. This is ridiculous and it needs to stop. The only way to stop it is to start pressuring Congress to give us information and not fetishist screeds. This denigrates the deaths of every toddler shot by another toddler, every black man shot by a police officer, every woman and child shot by a domestic abuser, and the lives of mentally ill people and American Muslims that are blamed for shootings that are a small part of the large picture. We need information and real policies and no more platitudes.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?